In their first home game of the season, the Devils fell to the Islanders in the sixth round of the shootout, 3-4. This marks their second loss in the first two games of the season.
While the Devils still received a point in the shootout loss and scored three goals in regulation (as compared to the night before in Pittsburgh where they were shutout), the team cited that they played better in Pittsburgh than they did in the home opener in Newark. The only main difference between the two games were those three goals.
“Not really,” Patrik Elias said of whether the performance in the Isles game was better than the performance in Pittsburgh. “In Pittsburgh, instead of the first period, we played better hockey than we did throughout the whole 60 minutes. It’s funny, we scored some goals, but we gave up a lot of chances tonight. It’s not our game obviously.”
“Three goals for us should mean a win,” coach Peter DeBoer said after the loss. “We were a little loose defensively tonight. A small byproduct of that is probably the back-to-back [games] a little bit. At the same time, we’ve got enough of these back-to-backs, we have to learn to play a little bit smarter game in these situations, because these are going to be critical points moving forward.
“Our neutral zone [was] a little loose, a little sloppy. It was pretty good in Pittsburgh…especially in the second and third. It didn’t carry into tonight. Some credit to [the Islanders]. They throw a lot of speed at you. But we’ve got to do better in the neutral zone.”
With the newest addition of Ryan Clowe, Michael Ryder, Jaromir Jagr and Damien Brunner, the Devils are still adjusting. These new members are learning the new system which is very different from any other system they’ve played in.
“You don’t want to second guess,” Elias said of the frustrations of easing in new members. “I don’t want to go out there and second guess, ‘should I go, should I [not] go?’ Are these guys going to go into places we’re supposed to? They’re new guys, new style. It’s going to take a little bit of a while.”
“Certain guys are better than the other,” Elias said of how the new players are fitting into the system. “Honestly, for some guys, it’s not that easy to maybe play that way. Once we get it going and they realize that’s the way we have to play, we’re all going to be better for that. We’re all going to have better chances and simply we won’t give up too much, we’ll have the puck more and everything. Sometimes less is more.”
“It’s good to get the one game off the back,” Ryder said after the game. “It would have been better if we came out on the winning side with two points.
“I’m still getting used to everything. Sometimes you find yourself thinking out there, but that’s what practice is for. That’s why you have to keep things a little more simpler earlier in the year until you feel more comfortable with certain things. I think we did a lot of good things on the ice. We created some opportunities. We just couldn’t come up with that extra goal to go ahead.”
“Pretty good,” Ryder said of how he thinks he’s fitting into the Devils’ system. “It’s a different change for me coming in. Training camp and preseason games, and these two games, I feel a lot more comfortable on the ice. It’s just the way you’ve got to try and tell yourself sometimes before the game what to do and stuff like that. I feel pretty comfortable out there. I like it. I think it gives us a lot of opportunities and gives the other team a difficult time.
“It’s different,” Ryder said comparing the style he played in Dallas with the Devils’ style. “It’s not more difficult. It’s just something different. Like if you play a certain way for so long and then a change is always something different because you just get used to doing it that way and it’s ingrained in you. It’s just kind of automatic. Right now, it’s not really automatic.
“It’s like re-learning…teaching different things. You kind of catch yourself sometimes doing the other habits, but it’s going to happen. Hopefully, it doesn’t take too long to feel a lot more comfortable out there.”
As for Jagr, missing training camp as well as the entire preseason, he missed viable time to fully prepare for the first game of the season. With only a few practices in with his new teammates, he got his first piece of NHL action this season in the Penguins season opener on Thursday. The next day, he played in his second game of the season. It’s a tough position to be put in when you haven’t fully prepared with the team (due to an injury) and then you’re thrown into two games that count.
“Tough,” DeBoer said of Jagr in his first two games. “You know, he didn’t play any exhibition games. He missed training camp. Tough spot to throw him into. He gave us some good shifts in overtime down the stretch.”
With these next two weeks on the road, this will allow the team to bond, gel…find chemistry.
“I’m trying to figure things out,” Ryder said of switching to a different line with Travis Zajac. “Hopefully we can gel better, get that chemistry a little more before this road trip.”
The Devils spend the next two weeks playing in Canada starting in the West and ending in the East before heading back down to New Jersey to play the Rangers on October 19th. Road trips like this are excellent to have at the start of the season to help the new guys and the veterans get to know each other, have experiences, and create a greater bond.
“It’s going to be a good team building thing for us to get on the road to play teams that we can just do our thing and not worry too much about the opposition,” Brodeur said of the upcoming road trip.
“That’s one thing we talked earlier,” Brodeur said about helping Cory Schneider out. “I kind of offered it to him. I said, listen…if you don’t want to know or maybe you think you know. You can do whatever you want. We talked about Malkin…and Crosby and stuff. I’m definitely going to ask the same questions. He’s got the book on the top players and even the sleeper players we don’t know of. We’re in this together to try and get this team to make the playoffs again.”
A great bond is needed to make a great run for the Stanley Cup in the end. During the Devils ’95 run, the different characters on the team bonding together to realize they were invincible…that’s all it took. They were the dark horse that year. No one expected them to win. They couldn’t believe they were even in the playoffs. But it took taking a look at the skill they had on their team, what each person brought to the table…that’s all it took for them to believe in themselves and each other as a team. It was that belief that they were able to win their first Stanley Cup.
That was Martin Brodeur’s first Stanley Cup. His next Stanley Cup team was a team that had skill up the wazoo (as Ken Daneyko describes). This year’s team is a little like those two Stanley Cup teams. There are the different characters. There are the players with skill up the wazoo.
The new additions are learning a different system. They are learning to bond. When they master those two things and then start to believe in themselves and each other…you will see a team you can be proud of. There is a science to building a Stanley Cup team. It appears Lou Lamoriello took a page or two out of two Stanley Cup teams and built this team.
[Scoring: 1. (NJ) Damien Brunner (Zubrus/Loktionov); 2. (NY) Michael Grabner (Hamonic); 3. (NJ) Michael Ryder (Salvador/Zidlicky); 4. (NY) Michael Grabner (Bailey); 5. (NY) Frans Nielsen (Grabner/Donovan); 6. (NJ) Damien Brunner (Clowe/Volchenkov). 7. (NY) (SO) Matt Moulson.]
[Matt Donovan's assist on Nielsen's goal marks his first career NHL point.]
Bringing in skillful scorers will help on the Devils power play unit. Last season, the Devils were 16% on the power play, ranking 21st in the league. They are seeking to change that percentage this season. After two games, the Devils have yet to see a power play goal.
Denis Brodeur, father of Martin Brodeur, died last week. A bronze Olympic medalist in hockey, Denis was the first of the Brodeur goaltenders. He even watched his goalie grandson, Anthony, get drafted by the Devils this past June marking the third generation of Brodeurs playing in between the pipes at a professional level.
Denis never played in the NHL. After his career in the minors, he got behind the lens and took pictures. He was the Montreal Canadiens official photographer for many years. He was also the official photographer for the Expos. He would take a young Marty to games with him. This is where Marty grew to fall in love with the game and watch his idols play hockey.
Denis was well loved in the hockey world. Many times, you could see him sitting somewhere in the arena with his camera in hand, taking pictures of his son. In 2006, he sold his collection of 110,000 photos to the NHL for $350,000.
His son became a legend, but he was the first legendary Brodeur…the legendary photographer. His images will be forever remembered. He will be missed.